Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2018: A Year in Reading - Now with fancy graphs!

2018 was a year of serious change for me - I moved halfway across the country to start graduate school (yay!) in a new city. While I was still living in the DC area, I spent as much time as physically possible with friends and family, so there wasn't much time for reading. Between that and the craziness of starting school again, I'm not surprised that 2018 was the first year in a while where I didn't meet my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal (69/80), and didn't read more than the previous year (82 books - my record).

Thanks to my audiobook addiction, I did get a ton of reading done! 44 of the 69 books I read this year were audiobooks - that's almost 64%, although last year 71% of my reading was audio. When I plotted format by genre, I could easily see that all of my comic book reading is done in hard copy (either hardcover or paperback), and all of my many fantasy books were audio.


I also read very few books that I actually own, relying almost entirely on libraries. In 2019, I'm going to try to spend more time reading through the books that I have physically on my shelves!

Library (school)0
(Note that numbers in the charts might add up to more or less than 69, as some might not reflect the full range of categories I entered, and author counts include not just the first author, but also second and third credited authors, if any. Graphs only count first authors.)
This was the year of excellent short story collections. When I think back on the books that blew me away in 2018, they were all contemporary single-author collections by women. Here's a selection of my favorites:

After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh
Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link (a re-read)
Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, Vandana Singh
Starlings, Jo Walton
Wicked Wonders, Ellen Klages
Alien Virus Love Disaster, Abbey Mei Otis
Her Body and Other Stories, Carmen Maria Machado
Homesick for Another Planet, Ottessa Mosfegh

I also read some excellent nonfiction that I highly recommend:

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls - a touching memoir of a woman with a troubled but loving family
Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf - a wonderfully readable journey through the science of reading
Lab Girl, Hope Jahren - possibly my favorite book this year, a poetic memoir by a scientist, about science and the people that do it (grab the audiobook if you can - it's narrated by the author, and it's a treat!)

It was also a big year for re-reading. I'm usually vehemently against re-reading (for myself - everyone makes their own fun!), mostly because there are so many new-to-me stories in the world that I'll never get to read all of them in my lifetime, doubly so if I'm re-reading old ones. But this year, I re-read pretty much every Tamora Pierce novel (childhood favorites) and two of my current favorite books: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer and Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. I needed some familiar comforts, and it had been long enough that I'd forgotten the details anyhow.

Thanks to my fancy graduate education (and this blog post by my colleague, Adam Goodkind), I've stepped up my graphics this year, switching over to R from my usual SPSS/Excel/Google Sheets hack job. Below is a plot of my reading throughout the year. (I'm aware this plot is a ridiculous behemoth and maybe not best practices for easily conveying information, but I had so much fun and learned a ton while putting it together!) 

Each bar is a different book, where the gray bars span from the date I started the book to the day I finished. The colored dots on the bars indicate the genre, and the shape indicates the format I read it in. Titles/Authors are purple if the first credited author was male, and purple otherwise, and bold if the author is a person of color.

You can seee that the slope is pretty steady (although occasionally stepwise) up until August, and then I basically don't start reading any more books until November. That's what happens when you move and start graduate school, I guess.

For a slightly less busy breakdown by month and genre:

It looks like I only finished one book September. I was also reading Dhalgren and Dune around that point, so that might have contributed to a phenomenally slow reading month.

It also becomes pretty obvious that I didn't read many books by men this year, and when I did, they tended not to be white men - which becomes even clearer here:

I was also interested in how quickly I was reading and how the books I read varied in length. That 800-page monster is Dhalgren by Samuel Delany, one of the best books I read this year.

For the code that generated these graphs, see my academic website:

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